Redirecting Applause

James King Education, Elementary, Life in the Classroom, Love, Mentoring, Teacher Leadership

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No one will ever describe me as humble. Ever. Like Lady Gaga, I live for “the applause, applause, applause. I live for the applause-plause, live for the applause-plause!”

With that said, I one time misspelled “ego” in my school’s spelling bee: “eago.” This ironic tragedy haunts me throughout my academic pursuits and serves as an omnipresent karmic sting that I completely deserve.

I traveled a long journey before I realized that my successes were not a result of my own tenacity and acumen, but rather a result of mentorship, tutoring, and guidance. I did not take compliments well as a kid (read: person under 30). I was unable to navigate agreeing with the compliment and quelling my own hubris. Perhaps many others learn this early on, but only recently did I realized that an appropriate response to a compliment was to attribute that compliment to whomever guided me to this success.

I have often regarded Mrs. Trakes, an elementary school teacher, as the singularly most influential person in my cognitive development. She taught me how to persevere, think critically, and problem solve. She instilled work-ethic and taught me about consequences and deadlines.

Ms. Stahlbush, my wonderful high school teacher for three years, had the pleasure of accepting my arrogance and teaching me how to channel it into leadership. She appreciated my skills, and patiently taught me to guide others. Ten years later, when I decided to teach, she was the first person I told of my career-changing plan. We are now colleagues and I easily attribute nine out of ten of the compliments I receive to Ms. Stahlbush. “Oh you like that? Ms. Stahlbush showed it to me!”

I fortunately work with many passionate and experienced teachers. I beg, borrow, and steal lessons from everyone. I ask other freshman teachers what they are doing, and I ask the sophomore teachers what skills they expect from my students. My “original” ideas stem from Mrs. Trakes and every teacher who molded my brain to think beyond parameters and synthesize unique ideas.

Teddy Roosevelt once said, “I am a part of everything I have ever read.” Similarly, my teaching persona is comprised of every teacher who taught me or with whom I have worked.

So, I am endlessly thankful for the mentoring I have received and will receive. With this reflection, I am more eager to connect with my students and push them to new heights. Likewise, I know one day it will be my duty to mentor younger teachers.

If I were to be pithy, I would say: “Get a mentor; be a mentor.”

As a teacher, you deserve your own applause. Please also take the time to applaud those who molded us, and those whom we mold.

Who mentored you? Who have you mentored? What successes have you stoked in students? Share your comments about applause-worthy teachers, colleagues, and students below! Then, give them an ego (“E-G-O, ego”) boost. Tell them how much you appreciate them.



James King is a high school teacher in Glendale Union High School District. He is the newspaper advisor, speech and debate coach and teaches AP English Language and Composition as well as Journalism. James is a graduate of the University of Central Florida. In his time in Florida, he worked as a substitute teacher for 5 years while simultaneously working in corporate training. In his free time, James enjoys reading, musical theatre, sand volleyball, comic books, and often-vapid reality TV programs.

Comments 4

  1. Leah Clark

    You are my favorite person. I love that you pay tribute to those who came before you, but remember you are a mentor to all of your fortunate students who take your class. You are also a mentor to the amazing Speech and Debate kids who learn from you daily. You are the driver of your classroom. Without you, nothing happens.

    With that, I must pay tribute to my high school AP English teacher, Dr. Marlin Kemmer. He is the reason I am an English teacher. Every day in his class was packed with 50 minutes of learning. I still remember things (dead word) he taught me and use many in my own classroom. Without him, I don’t know where I would be today. PS One day, a student is going to write that about you, James.

    1. James King

      You are too kind Leah!

      Thanks Dr. Kemmer!!! We needed Leah at Sunnyslope, and so many of us are grateful to have her, so THANK YOU for all you did to get her to us!

  2. Jaime Festa-Daigle

    Thank you for the lovely uplifting read. Tonight I will give myself a little applause and give lots of applause to Mr. Morgan my 3rd grade teacher. We were all so very frightened of having a male teacher. And he may have been the kindest person I have known, so much so, I named my guinea pig after him :)

  3. Mrs_Buzan

    This post is fantastic. I was captivated by your writer’s voice in the very first line. I look forward to reading your next blog already.

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